The trucks are on the road and headed west
Hey everybody. The Gray Motorsports drivers, Shane Gray and Dave Connolly, were nice enough to invite me to take over their territory here on the NHRA blog for a little while, and that gives me a great opportunity to bring you up to speed, as they say. There has been a lot going on at the Gray Motorsports facility in the past few months, as I'm sure you've all heard by now. As you probably expect, it's been pretty exciting, to say the least.
You might be wondering, who the heck is this guy sharing some info about Gray Motorsports? That's a fair question, and a good place for us to start. Here is a little background about myself.
I came on board with Gray Motorsports at the beginning of the 2013 season with the mindset of contributing to building a championship operation, However, my relationship with the Grays started well before then. I was developing a piece of equipment used to quantify engine performance, called an inertia engine dyno. Johnny Gray recognized the accomplishments made during the development period and the usefulness the product had with his engine program. Johnny was persistent about getting one under his roof, and we worked together to make that happen. Since then my relationship with the Gray family has grown, and today I am the General Manager for Gray Motorsports.
I came from the NASCAR world of the racing industry. I worked for three years for Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing as a Design Engineer before accepting a full time position at Gray Motorsports. I was designing chassis components for the NASCAR Sprint Cup cars of Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya. My tenure there included wins at Indianapolis (Brickyard 400), Charlotte, and Watkins Glen. It was a pretty big transition for me to change from turning left most of the time to going straight and only making one left turn at the end of the pass. Even though this is quite a different world than I am used to, I've really come to enjoy drag racing through working with Gray Motorsports. I really enjoy the competitiveness of the Pro Stock class. Quite honestly, how could someone not be excited about the close competition we experience on the track?
My daily duties at our shop in Denver, N.C., start with overseeing many of the day-to-day business operations, and that includes everything from administrative duties to making sure the guys have the tools and equipment necessary to do their jobs and to do them well. There is always plenty to do around here, especially over the last few months.
Last season was relatively simple for the Gray Motorsports group. We were small and operated as a very competitive single-car team. Victor Cagnazzi was equally impressive with his single car operation. Common sense told us that we could function more efficiently and even more competitively as a combined unit. So, this led to the merger that has been a hot topic in the off-season. Yes, the merger has brought on many challenges, with the biggest being the rapid growth of our small program. That's a challenge that I consider to be very positive. It was a great feeling to add the former Cagnazzi employees to the Gray Motorsports roster. Our talent pool grew exponentially, and this growth adds to our excitement for the 2014 season. It's great working with Shane, his brother Jonathan, and their dad Johnny. Really, the entire Gray family has been so welcoming and shown such a sense of commitment to drag racing. This is completely evident with the recent growth of Gray Motorsports.
It is also a tremendous opportunity for all of us at Gray Motorsports to work with Victor Cagnazzi, especially when you consider the past success he has had in NHRA's Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and the experience that he brings to our team. He has already added great sponsorship partners to Gray Motorsports and we are excited to share our future success with all of them.
The Gray Motorsports Dyno Room
Now let me tell you about our workforce! This is where I get really excited… We have great people here at Gray Motorsports, starting with two crew chiefs in the building now. I was fortunate to spend last season working with Justin Elkes, and let me tell you that was exciting – it gave us a glimpse of the future success that we will all have together. Now we get to welcome Tommy Utt to the group as our co-crew chief, and with Tommy's vast experience in the Pro Stock series, our Gray Motorsports cars should be getting down the track even faster.
Near the end of last season, we restructured the engine shop and brought about Paul Hoskins and Dan Cordier to work with Mike Smith, and our future began to look very bright. And when we announced the merger with Cagnazzi Racing, we added Stevie Johns and Kevin Wideman to the engine program, exponentially increasing the potential for the program. Since these four have been added, our dyno cells have been very active, with Mike at the controls. Mike has been with Gray Motorsports for several years now, and he is a very versatile guy. He can do anything we ask him to do…Yesterday our air compressors failed…again – the lines froze due to the moisture and cold temperatures (again) we have had here in NC – and it seems like just about every day Mike goes out there and has to fix something with them due to the extreme cold weather we have had. That's just one example of how he takes on responsibility. He's a good asset to the team, just like everyone we have here at Gray Motorsports.
Jep, also known at JT, is another guy who has been with Gray Motorsports for a long time. JT is a reliable member of the team who will do what it takes to get things done. Not only is he our transmission and clutch guy, he will drive Shane's truck and trailer down the highway this year. Dan Duncan is new to our team, and he'll be responsible for the back half on Shane's car and driving Dave's truck and trailer. Without JT and Dan safely moving our equipment up and down the highway, we wouldn't be going anywhere. Johnny Utt is also new to our program and he will be filling a variety of roles with both cars. He brings plenty of experience to our program and has a great mentor to learn from with his father as a co-crew chief.
Speaking of Dave, adding him to our driver line-up is really exciting because of his past success and his reputation as a driver. It’s going to be awesome to watch how well he and Shane work together. I think they'll be a dominating team.
Of course, when we talk about the team, we can't forget to mention Angela. She is up front in the office answering the phones and making sure the bills are paid, and doing anything else that is asked of her. With the talent pool we've built at Gray Motorsports, we're optimistic for profound results in the 2014 season. The chemistry that the team has built in such a short time is evidence that we have a great group of guys working together, and it's only going to get better. We're on our way and so is our equipment! Hello NHRA Winternationals in Pomona …. Here comes Gray Motorsports!